Suki Tranqille on The Art of Raising Healthy Vegan Children

February 12, 2010

I am lucky to know several fabulous vegan mothers, but Suki Tranqille is a vegan mother who seems to master the art of staying extremely productive as a businesswoman while still being a very active parent.  We met years ago, when  my main focus was fashion—and so was hers. Years later, we’ve reunited and seem to still have similar interests. But now we are both in the business of staying healthy, and empowering others to do the same. Below is a transcript of our interview, in which she revealed some tips on how she keeps her kids vegan and healthy.  Check out her bio and visit her website below! – XoXo Raw Girl

RG: How long have you been a vegan? If you were a meat eater previously what made you decide to change your diet?

ST: I have been a vegan for close to seven years now. I was a meat eater previously and started to progress toward the vegan lifestyle very slowly. It began when I decided that I wanted to do something about the constant fatigue I was feeling.  I did not go to a doctor but if I did, I am sure I would have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Twelve hours of sleep was not enough and I had to drink double latte just to function. Then I graduated to coffee and caffeine pills which resulted in severe migraine headaches.  I found myself constantly popping pills – caffeine to stay awake, Advil to keep the headaches at bay.  At first, I tried to discover the cause of my fatigue which I had come to realize was abnormal. I did know that I was anemic and noticed a positive result when I took my iron supplements.  However, I was unable to take the supplements all the time because they wreaked havoc on my stomach. To make a long story short, I recognized that I had to change my diet to fix my problem.  It turns out that the ibuprofen was robbing my body of iron and my iron deficiency was a direct cause of my lifestyle.  I do suffer from anemia but it is a B12 anemia – something I was not aware of at the time.  I started off slowly by first eliminating all red meat, then all meat.  I replaced the meat with meat substitutes a lot at first, now I do not eat them as much.

RG: I completely relate as I experienced B12 anemia myself, and still regularly take liquid iron supplements. Was it an easy transition for you if you were giving up meat? What were the health benefits you gained from changing your diet?

ST: Giving up meat was an easy transition because it was a decision that my husband and I made together.  The most difficult part was explaining to other people when we went to their homes why we did not eat the meat.  I would need several pages to describe all the health benefits but I will limit myself to the greatest benefits.  As a result of my vitamin deficiencies, I had begun to lose my hair on both sides of my head. They had reached a point where they were totally bald (and I was only 24 years old!) – that hair has grown back – not as thick as it was when I was younger but I do not have to comb my hair in a way to hide those areas.  I was beginning to grow small moles all over my body and made an appointment with a skin doctor to determine whether those moles were cancerous.  Before the appointment the moles began to get smaller and eventually they went away completely.  I sleep on average 6 to 8 hours a day and do not walk around in a fog nor do I need anything to help me stay awake.  I no longer suffer the occasional heart palpitation and enjoy the preferred rate for both my health insurance and life insurance because of my health.

RG: Wow, those are really concrete benefits. What informed your decision in raising your children vegan?

ST: I began to really look into food and how it affects both our mental and physical capacities.  I also realized through my research that most if not all childhood ailments are due to diet.  Behavior, allergies, and  even school performance are all linked to diet.  My daughter used to suffer from all types of what I call “roving” allergies. One year it was grass, the next year it was fish, the following year it was pollen.  She also suffered as a child from ear infections and eczema. When we changed our diet, all of those issues miraculously disappeared. I used to be afraid to go out without Benedryl.  Both of my children do very well in school and I attribute their success in part to their diet.  I believe that to feed them food that is high fat, hormone filled, genetically modified, killed in inhumane conditions and/or created in a lab rather than nature is to harm them.

RG: Are your children vaccinated?

ST: The children were vaccinated when they were children but it is not something I would do again.  I am against forcing parents to give their daughters the HPV vaccine and I do believe that the schedule of vaccinations is not really designed with children in mind.  If I had to do it again, I would not let my children receive several shots of different vaccines in one day nor would I vaccinate as young as is recommended.  I can’t say I would rule out every vaccine but I would inform myself on every vaccine before agreeing to if and when.

RG: I agree, I think information is key, most people do not realize that harmful substances like mercury are in a lot of vaccines and  can lead to permanent mental and physical damage. NY State unfortunately was trying to pass a bill that would allow kids to be vaccinated without parental consent, which I think is crazy. What are staples in your diet? What are vegan dishes your kids enjoy?

ST: I don’t know that we have staples in our diet; we try to practice as much as we can eating seasonally and regionally. That means that we will make meals out of what is in season. During pumpkin season, I made a lot of pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin pie.  We love to eat and experiment with different dishes so for the Superbowl I made a vegetarian chili everyone loved, tonight for dinner we are having African Sweet Potato and Almond Soup. We make many dishes from our native Haiti – just without the meat. I made Haitian beef patties yesterday with soy meat alternative. We eat rice every day, just like I did when I grew up – sometimes it’s black rice, sometimes it’s brown rice, sometimes it’s rice & beans.  We make a lot of Mediterranean dishes as well using eggplant as a meat alternative. The kids love the gyro’s, homemade pizza, black bean & corn salad, sweet plantain and tomato bisque.  We make our own rolled oats cereal and with dried cranberry, almonds and/or raisins for breakfast or we will have tofu eggs.  In the summertime we will add Chilled Cantaloupe Soup to the mix.  We grow a lot of the vegetables ourselves so that adds both the flavor and nutrient content.

RG: Sounds delish. What supplements do you use regularly, if any?

ST: I supplement more during the winter when I buy my vegetables instead of growing them.  We take B-complex regularly, calcium & Vitamin C.  All of the supplements are from whole food sources so that we do not take the chemical version of the Vitamins.  We put flax seed in the cereal for the Omega-3’s and nutritional yeast on the tofu eggs. We also also add broccoli sprouts to most meals. We drink tea at least once a day in order to aid in digestion so that we always have a wide variety of teas in the house.

RG: What crucial advice would you give to mothers who want to raise their children vegan?

ST: It would depend on when you began the process of going vegan.  If you start right from the beginning, it’s not a big deal.  Just be ready to pack lunch for your kids all the time.  I really do mean all the time – every time you visit any relative or friend, anytime you are going to the mall or to the movies, or going on a short trip.  Learn to cook recipes that will store for some time if you are going on a trip and make food for your children that sounds like and looks like what other kids are eating.  Tell your kids why they are eating differently from other people.  When my children were old enough, I let them watch a couple of documentaries about food and its effect on your body.  I also let them watch a film about the treatment of animals in the process of procuring meat.  I don’t worry about them at all when they go out without me – in fact they talk to their friends about what they are eating.

RG: Were you vegan during all of your pregnancies? How did your diet or supplementation change during this time?

ST: I was not a vegan by choice during my pregnancies. I did not eat a lot of meat because I had a difficult time digesting the meat. I hadn’t reached the level of understanding about my food that I have now. However, if  I were to do it again, I would not supplement heavily because as I understand it, the baby becomes accustomed to the high amount of nutrients you ingest – vitamin C for example – and will actually be more susceptible to scurvy because the baby is so accustomed to large amounts of Vitamin C.

RG: I think you answered this sort of…But is it difficult for your kids to interact with the other children who have S.A.D. (Standard American) diets? Is it difficult for them to stick to a vegan diet during school and social functions and if so how do you handle that?

ST: I think it is more difficult for the other children because they ask why my children are vegan and they hear about things they don’t think about.  They hear about the way the animals are treated, they hear about animal fats effect on diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, etc.  They then go home and ask their parents and the answers are often inadequate.  I think it also helps that I do not have a television in my house – that means that my children do not watch commercials regularly so they are not bombarded with images of eating unhealthy fast food all the time.  They do not ask to go to any fast food restaurant because it is just not a part of their world.  During social functions, I try to anticipate what will be there, I will go to barbecue’s with soy hot dogs, bean burgers (homemade), and soy sausages and I will offer to cook at least a couple of dishes for the holidays to make sure that we all have something to eat.  The meat alternatives at this point are more for the children than myself because it is still a processed food – something I try to limit.  It does, however, provide for a nice transition.

RG: Yes, giving time for transition is important. Any other challenges…?

ST: The biggest challenge is to accept other people’s choices, particularly those of family members, when they eat in a way they know is unhealthy.  At this point, I have gone into great detail about the effects of various foods on the body, e-mailed proven scientific conclusions and yet continue to see the same lifestyle. I have even had a family member hospitalized because of cholesterol, told by a doctor that they would have to change their diet and still buy fried chicken right after emergency surgery! Even though I am the message literally, I talk about the food choices, I grow my food, they can look in my cupboard and see Vitamin C and essential oils instead of pills, there are those who will reject the message even if it means their death.  For me the greatest challenge is accepting that they have a choice, like I do, to determine the quality of their lives and their choice is just as okay as mine.

RG: It’s unfortunate that these unhealthy foods are very addictive, and a lot of people are not willing to step outside the norm even when it means saving their lives. But I do believe that when you are a raw foodie or vegan who is experiencing optimal health, your energy alone can begin to transform people–or at least shock them into the awareness that there is a better way to live. Thank you so much for your time!

Suki K. Tranqille is a founder of GOKI – The Garden of Knowledge Institute – www.gokiheals.com – an organization focused on providing the knowledge for individuals to take charge of all aspects of their health.  Classes like, “Functional Foods for Better Health” and “Healing from the Kitchen Cupboard” are offered to empower all participants.

Suki is also the host of Food Healing Talk on Blog Talk Radio Online, where she covers topics like, Healing Blood Pressure with Food and Swine Flu Naturally.  Suki’s mission is to remind everyone that when it comes to eating right and exercising there is no “I’ll start tomorrow.”  Tomorrow is disease.


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